By James Clingman
What do you consider to be the most important issue facing Black people in America? Jobs? The criminal justice system? The education system? Reparations? Violence? Global warming? Immigration? All of these issues and others you may mention fall under the broad auspices of economics and/or politics. The essence of our problems in both areas is our disorganization. We can complain about the issues mentioned above for eternity, but until we make up our minds to keep the main thing the main thing, our problems will persist.
Marcus Garvey and others have told us the greatest issues facing Black people are disunity and disorganization. I totally agree with that. Much of our current condition is rooted in our failure to organize ourselves into a force to be reckoned with, especially in areas that make a difference. The two most important aspects of our society, when it comes to power, are economics and politics; I prefer the term, “public policy.” If we would stop majoring in the minors, our condition would change.
Our economic wherewithal is so dispersed, thus powerless, because we virtually give it away without reciprocity in the marketplace. We brag about Black spending “power” but we fail to use it to our advantage; it is power only for those with whom we spend it. An organized effort that utilizes Black dollars to solve many of the problems from which we suffer is the paramount strategy for Black people.
Black political influence remains mere influence rather than real power because we give away our “precious” votes, thinking the simple act of voting will somehow cause the two major parties to stop ignoring us and taking us for granted. We still have elected officials and others telling Black folks that all we need to do is “vote” to solve our problems. How ridiculous is that? We out voted White people in the last presidential election, and what do we have to show for it? And please don’t fall back on the low voter turnout during primaries; in 2014, total voter participation was low, but Blacks failed to show because there was nothing on the table that specifically addressed our needs. There still isn’t.
It is with that understanding that we must organize our resources toward the very practical model of reward and punishment. With the knowledge of what we face and what controls this society we must leverage our resources to obtain more, just as people use their money to leverage higher loans from banks. You have probably heard the saying, “You have to bring something to get something.” Organized, focused, collective leverage should be thought of in that vein.
Keeping the main thing the main thing is the imperative for organization, focus, and a commitment to sacrifice which, in turn, will result in progressive action and economic empowerment. How can we allow ourselves to be weak when we have the intellectual and financial capacity to strengthen ourselves? Why do we continue to be such a pliable people when it comes to political persuasion, when we have all that it takes to mold ourselves into a viable people that can determine our own fate?
The answers to those questions and more are found in the “Main Thing.” Economic power is the main thing in this land of plenty, and after building it, stewarding it, supporting it, sacrificing for it, and creating wealth for it and those who reside here, isn’t time we do the same for ourselves and our children?
There was a time, not so long ago, when Black people practiced economic self-reliance and mutual support. We lost our way, and in some cases were led astray, by slick political enticements and even slicker politicians who were – and still are – only concerned with their individual economic security. We chose the political path and abandoned our economic base, the “Main Thing,” in the mid-1960s and have been paying the price for it ever since.
This is yet another call from Blackonomics to Black people to finally throw off the yoke of the mundane, the mediocre, and the minor things that plague us and continue to keep us from pursuing the “Main Thing.” How? I’m glad you asked. I will offer one movement and one organization. The movement: One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (www.iamoneofthemillion.com). Learn about it and sign up if you are so inclined. This movement is the answer to many of the issues we tussle with on a daily basis. The organization: The Collective Empowerment Group (www.collectiveempowermentgroup.org). Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the CEG comprises hundreds of churches working together around business issues to leverage the billions of dollars spent by their members within their communities. Start a chapter in your city.
Get busy brothers and sisters. Organize first, and then always keep the “Main Thing” the “Main Thing.”
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com. He is the author of Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website; professionalpublishinghouse.com and Amazon Kindle eBooks.